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The Devil's Interval (Maggie Fiori Series #2)

The Devil's Interval (Maggie Fiori Series #2)

3.3 13
by Linda Lee Peterson

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“Impossible to put down. Sparkling dialog, references both musical and literary, and an offbeat cast of believable characters make the pages fly by.”
Library Journal STARRED REVIEW

Maggie Fiori uses her powers as a journalist to dig into the world of San Francisco's elite after a limo driver is convicted of murdering a socialite.


“Impossible to put down. Sparkling dialog, references both musical and literary, and an offbeat cast of believable characters make the pages fly by.”
Library Journal STARRED REVIEW

Maggie Fiori uses her powers as a journalist to dig into the world of San Francisco's elite after a limo driver is convicted of murdering a socialite. Between managing her sons' soccer practices, saving her damaged marriage, and handling her maddening staff, Maggie fights to prove that the "Limousine Lothario" was guilty of no more than loving his mother.

Linda Lee Peterson is the author of Edited to Death, which introduced readers to San Francisco sleuth and magazine editor Maggie Fiori. A well-known marketing expert, Peterson has also written several nonfiction books and contributed to such publications as the Chicago Tribune.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Peterson’s smart sequel to Edited to Death (2005), which introduced San Francisco magazine editor Maggie Fiori, Maggie swears up, down, and sideways to her husband that she will no longer investigate affairs that don’t concern her, but her criminal defense lawyer friend, Isabella Fuentes, easily persuades her to make a trip to San Quentin Prison to see Travis Gifford (aka the Limousine Lothario), a limo driver on death row for murdering his client and lover, socialite Grace Plummer. Readers will enjoy Maggie’s smart-alecky quips about Grace’s social circle as she investigates the secret life of the superficially perfect socialite. Never have therapy sessions been more enjoyable than Maggie’s, as her signature wit is on full display when her husband drags her to marriage counseling. Maggie’s inner monologue carries the story, transforming what could have been a humdrum premise into a fast-paced, intelligent tale of intrigue that will keep readers guessing until the refreshing end. Agent: Amy Rennert, Amy Rennert Agency. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

"A fast-paced, intelligent tale of intrigue that will keep readers guessing until the refreshing end."
Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW

“Impossible to put down. Sparkling dialog, references both musical and literary, and an offbeat cast of believable characters make the pages fly by.”
Library Journal STARRED REVIEW

"Murder and music, discord and harmony, guilt and innocence, domesticity and passion, smooth talk and rough sex: In The Devil’s Interval—Linda Lee Peterson’s virtuoso second novel—journalist-sleuth Maggie Fiori scores all the notes. Maggie, like the book, is smart, stylish, and surprisingly steamy!"
— Jon Jefferson (Jefferson Bass), New York Times bestselling crime writer

Smart and sexy, with the schemes of high society on full display, The Devil’s Interval takes readers on a tour of Everyone’s Favorite City, San Francisco. As Maggie Fiori attempts to solve this intricate mystery, which begins in San Quentin Prison, what will happen to her marriage, which needs a heavy dose of healing? Readers will be turning pages to discover the answers.
— Naomi Hirahara, Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mysteries

The Devil’s Interval is an entertaining mystery, and shines with crisp prose, layered characters, and a gripping plot.”
— Jonnie Jacobs, bestselling author of the Kate Austen and Kali O’Brien mystery series

“An intelligent and gripping novel. Maggie Fiori is a witty, feisty protagonist and Peterson deftly weaves a compelling tale of how far a mother will go to save her child. The Devil’s Interval is a roller-coaster ride through the streets and alleys of San Francisco that will evoke Robert Parker’s Spenser novels with a dash of Janet Evanovich. Get out the flashlight. You’ll be up late."
— Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author of The Conviction

"There are many things I like about this series...Peterson has avoided the pitfalls of making her protagonist either too cozy or too hard-bitten and has crafted in Maggie a character who feels real."
—Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books

Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
Once again, Maggie Fiori, a San Francisco magazine editor, finds herself tangled in a crime case. Friends in a defense group for death row inmates want her to meet a prisoner, Travis Gifford, also known as the Limousine Lothario, who is appealing his sentence. Convicted for murdering a high-society client (and lover), Travis nonetheless maintains his innocence. Maggie's curiosity gets the better of her, and soon she's investigating, under the auspices of writing a magazine feature about the victim. Maggie's last foray into detecting almost got her killed, so this time her husband gets involved, too. They learn that Grace Plummer, the victim, was no ordinary socialite. As Maggie's team research and interview (including a steamy couple of segments in an exclusive sex club), they acknowledge the familiar maxim: the rich are different. And some of them have no compunction about killing again. VERDICT This sophomore entry featuring journalist-sleuth Maggie Fiori (after Edited to Death) is impossible to put down. Sparkling dialog, references both musical and literary, and an offbeat cast of believable characters make the pages fly by. Peterson's secondary plot about Maggie's family is balanced, never overwhelming the mystery.

Product Details

Prospect Park Books
Publication date:
Maggie Fiori Series , #2
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Devil's Interval

By Linda Lee Peterson

Prospect Park Books

Copyright © 2013 Linda Lee Peterson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-938849-11-4


Here's a piece of useful fashion advice: Don't wear a metal underwire bra if you're visiting San Quentin Prison. They'll turn you away at the jailhouse door, when the underwire sends the metal detector into overdrive. And you can't just take the bra off, because braless ladies are not allowed inside. Those are just a couple of the things I learned when I found myself in the middle of an attempt to spring an innocent man from Death Row.

It all began when I took a break from a bookshelf purge in our family room, slapped the dust and stray dog hair from my hands, poured a cup of coffee, and sat down with The Wall Street Journal. Love that paper. Their editorials suck, since they perversely take political sides in opposition to my own, but wow, what great writing. The WSJ goes in for stubbornly conservative editorials, whereas I, a journalistic giant myself as editor of San Francisco's trendy, superficial, but oh-so-readable city magazine, Small Town, am an unreconstructed, knee-jerk liberal. Sitting there, surrounded by bags and boxes of dusty hardbacks and paperbacks that were slated to go directly to the book drive at our sons' school, I began reading a front-page story about publishers sending remaindered books to prisons. Inmates, with time on their hands and a less-than-great selection on the prison library shelves, regularly write to publishers and ask for their overstock to be donated. "Most grievously word-hungry," read the Journal, "are the Death Row inmates with their segregated, pitifully stocked library."

I lowered the paper and surveyed the family room floor. Our German shepherd, Raider, apparently exhausted from watching me work, had fallen asleep in the midst of the mess. Books, books, and more books. Bags and boxes of books. "Hey, babies," I said softly. "You're going to jail."

Within a few minutes, I had a polite community affairs officer at San Quentin on the phone.

"Bags of books," he said patiently. "You want to bring me bags of books?"

"Right," I said. "For the Death Row Library."

He sighed. "Wall Street Journal article?"

"Right again," I said.

"Prison," my husband, Michael, corrected me that evening when I told him where our extra books were going. "Jail's where you go to wait, prison's where you end up. There's a technical explanation, but it's more than you need to know." We were dawdling over coffee, enjoying the half hour between post-dinner and hardcore homework nagging. Though our three-story, sixty-plus-year-old rambling house teetered on the edge of permanent disorder, the dining room somehow managed to rise above the detritus of sports paraphernalia, pieces of electronics, and Raider's innumerable chew toys everywhere else in the house. Maybe there just weren't enough surfaces to clutter. Deep, deep forest-green walls seemed to take the noise down a notch, and my grandmother's chandelier sparkled soft light onto the table. We ate there every evening, a family agreement to slow down and feel civilized at least once a day.

"Want to split that last brownie?" I asked Michael. "And what does a tax lawyer know about jail or prison anyway?"

He pushed the plate with the lonely brownie my way. "All yours," he said. "Where do you think tax evaders go?"

"Congress," I said. "Maybe the White House. Corner office in some Fortune 500 company."

"Very amusing, Maggie. Did those bleeding-heart criminal -defense Gasworks chicks put this idea in your head?"

"They did not," I said indignantly. "I read an article in The Wall Street Journal. But Gasworks, that's a great idea. I'll bet they can cut through some of this red tape for me." The Gasworks Gang is an ad hoc group of stay-at-home mommy-lawyers who handle death-penalty appeals. Since the community affairs officer at San Quentin had been less than enthusiastic about my proposal to personally stock the shelves with my bags of books, I knew I'd need some insider help getting access.

"I know the Dewey Decimal System," I'd burbled over the phone. "My junior year I worked as a library aide at St. Agnes High School."

"Well, now, Mrs. Fiori," he began, "you have to understand that we have procedures," which roughly translated into, "Okay, lady, drop your books at the gate, get on with your sweet suburban life, and keep your friggin' Dewey Decimal System to yourself."

Oddly enough, Michael raised that very question.

"Maggie, why can't you just drop the books at the guard gate? You don't have to turn this into Avon calling' on Death Row, do you?"

I was silent.

"Cara?" prompted Michael, "what are you up to?" He used Italian endearments primarily when he felt I wasn't listening to him.

"I'm just curious," I said. "I've lived in the Bay Area almost twenty years and I've never been to San Quentin."

"It's not a tourist attraction," he said. "That's Alcatraz."

"Well, I know." I vacillated. "This whole thing about books and—"

"And felons. Killers," Michael completed my sentence.

"Books and desperate people," I said. "It interests me. Maybe there's a story."

Michael sighed. "Well, maybe. But they're not going to let you take a little library cart around so you can interview these guys. Which is," he muttered, "a big relief to me."

I waited a moment. "Are you telling me not to deliver the books, Michael?"

His face went blank. "Certainly not," he said. "Entirely your decision."

"Thank you," I said formally. "Just clarifying." I stood and began clearing dinner plates. Time to leave the room before the chill in the air froze us both into familiar conflicts. Our marriage had been tested the last year or so, and it had been my fault. Entirely. Completely. And not a day went by that I didn't regret a series of moral missteps, beginning with temporarily abandoning the whole "forsaking all others" thing, continuing through an inadvertent run at ruining Michael's career, and ending with imperiling a few lives, including my own. I did, to be perfectly fair, unsnarl the murder of my boss (and former lover) at the magazine along the way.

Since that series of misadventures, I had become painfully aware that the life Michael and I had made together, which once seemed relatively easy to navigate, had become strewn with hidden ordnance. In what felt like an endless loop, I relived every dim-witted detour I had taken off the moral high road. Turns out there's no page in the Dick Tracy Crimestoppers Notebook warning amateur sleuths about collateral damage to marriages caused by adultery or sleuthing or, worse yet, both. Which led me to remember that we'd decided to join the rest of the Bay Area's middle-class, overly self-scrutinizing couples in marriage therapy. Our first session was coming up and, all in all, I would have preferred to have an encounter with the Brazilian wax specialist.

Still, before the all-too-familiar chill had hit our conversation, Michael had innocently planted the Gasworks Gang idea in my head, and it seemed like precisely the access I might need. I had discovered the group via Edgar "the Invincible" Inskeep, a ruthless and very successful criminal attorney. We'd met when Michael introduced him to our friend, and my former managing editor, Glen. It was the climax of my annus horribilis when Glen confessed to murdering our former boss, Quentin Hart, the late, great—but not particularly nice—editor of Small Town. Edgar, in turn, had introduced me to his wife, also a criminal attorney. Unlike her money-grubbing husband, who defended drug dealers and society batterers for big bucks, Eleanor Inskeep was a public defender. Like many other women, when she became a mom, she looked for more flexible ways to run her professional life. She began doing death-penalty appeals and found it was satisfying but lonely work. To her surprise, she kept bumping into other new moms who were doing the same kind of work—and feeling the same way. Ninety percent of the time, they found themselves researching and writing, all alone by the computer and the phone. No more offices full of gossipy colleagues willing to dish fellow members of the criminal bar or commiserate when the same clients showed up for one, two, and then three strikes. Even your clients don't call—or at least, not often. And when they do, it's collect.

In the process of thanking Edgar profusely for mitigating Glen's troubles, I'd made one of those "anything I can do for you" offers we sometimes live to regret.

"Yeah," he said, "take my wife out to lunch. She's going stir-crazy at home with the new baby, and she's taken up with a posse of other new moms, death-penalty types. I think they're up to no good."

Eleanor was delighted to go out for lunch, especially when I dispatched Anya, our live-in Norwegian art student/au pair, to babysit.

"Lunch?" she said. "And you're sending a babysitter? You're my new best friend."

She explained Gasworks to me over sand dabs and chardonnay at Tadich's. Tadich's is a long, wooden bar and boothy, clubby-looking San Francisco fish house where they put mashed potatoes in the tartar sauce and the waiters are all old enough to have been honorably discharged after the War of 1812.

"Hope it's not too noisy," I said when we sat down.

Eleanor waved her hand at the room. "This is what I miss. The sound of adults eating and drinking."

"So, tell me about Gasworks. What is it and why is it?"

"It's a cross between a professional interest group and a new mom survivor society," she said. "A whole bunch of us criminal-defense types became new moms all at once. You remember what that's like, right?"

I nodded. "More or less. It fades or blurs or something. Or I guess the species would die out."

"Right," said Eleanor. "Exhaustion, isolation, days and nights on end when you can't figure out if you'll ever do a productive grownup thing again. And then you're just brought to your knees by this helpless little tyrant you worship."

"Been there," I said.

"But then," she continued, warming to her soapbox, "you're a trained professional, you're a criminal-defense lawyer. So you're trying to hold on to your self-respect and bring some money in, so you agree to accept death-penalty appeals." She buttered her sourdough bread with more vigor than necessary.

"More isolation?"

"No kidding. It takes months and years, and the only people you talk to have bad news and horrible stories. Investigators who keep turning up tales of hellish childhoods, social workers who want to let you know that your client's mother just died and that her deathbed wish was that you 'take care of her boy.'"

"Holy shit," I said softly.

Eleanor's eyes brimmed. "I was nursing Tyler when I got that particular call from the social worker." She swallowed. "I looked down at my son and thought: Once upon a time, my awful, terrible, pathetic, dumb ass violent client was somebody's baby, just like Tyler. Once upon a time, he was innocent." She took a gulp of wine. "Plus, you know, all that postpartum emotional stuff. I was falling apart. That's when I got on the phone and started calling around to my old buddies in the Women Defenders."

"Women Defenders? They sound like superheroes."

She laughed. "Well, we think we are. It's a bunch of lefty criminal-defense lawyers from all over the state. We're the daughters of the women who did sit-ins at Berkeley and Columbia. Anyway, within a few days, I'd hauled together a few of us who were new moms and did death-penalty appeals. And that's how the Gasworks Gang got its start."

"And the name?"

"Come on, Maggie," she said. "Surely it hasn't been that long since you had babies. What did you obsess about?"

"Sleep. Getting back into a size eight. Flawless birth control."

"No, I mean about the babies?"

"Oh, colic, poop, and naps."

"Exactly," she said. "So, at our first meeting, we realized that we were talking about gas, gas, and more gas. Who's got it? Who hasn't? What do you do about it? And then, before lethal injections came along, executions took place...."

"In the gas chamber," I said. "I get it."

"Right. And by the way, they still use the same puke-green room to do their dirty work. So, we decided we were the Gasworks Gang."

After my lunch with Eleanor, I assigned a writer to research a feature on the gang for Small Town. I sent Calvin Bright, my favorite photographer and willing sidekick during my debut days as an amateur sleuth after Quentin's death, to shoot one of their meetings.

He showed up, contact sheets in sweaty hand, and delivered nonstop commentary as Linda Quoc, Small Town's art director, and I looked through the shots.

"Those women are fine, fine, superfine," he said.

"They do very good work," I agreed. "It's thankless, but somebody's got to do it."

"Oh, loosen up, Mags. I mean, that was one sexy group of broads."

"They're all new moms, Calvin. Have a little respect. Plus, didn't they look awful? Circles under their eyes and everything?"

"I don't care. All those hormones in one room, all that 'fullness-of-womanhood' shit, cooing over each other's babies...."

"Unbuttoning to breastfeed," Linda added dryly.

"Yeah," said Calvin, "that too. Yummy icing on the cake. You know what? I think we ought to do a once-a-month follow-up for a while."

Linda and I exchanged glances. "Get out, Calvin," I said. "You've got the mind of a lecher and the maturity of a twelve-year-old."

"And that," said Calvin, on the way out the door, "is why you girls find me so irresistible. Plus, you know what they say, 'once you've gone black....'"

"No one says that, Calvin. Not one single real human being. Dream on," I said. It was too late. He was gone. And the pleasant distraction of bickering with a real person instead of staring at a screen came to an end.

But the Gasworks piece was a big hit for the magazine, and Eleanor and I became friends. So now, all these many months later, it was my turn to call for help. The Gasworks Gang, with their up-close-and-personal relationship with San Quentin, seemed like the perfect way to make sure my books got delivered to the Death Row Library.

When Eleanor answered the phone, I explained my request.

"Bring your books over," she invited promptly. "We can have coffee and catch up. Besides, there's somebody in our group who wants to meet you. I've been meaning to call."

"Advice on criminals or colic?" I asked.

"Something weird has come up," she said.


"Isabella Fuentes is the member who wants to meet you. She's got an innocent client on Death Row."

I laughed. "Hey, Eleanor, isn't that what they all claim?"

"I'm not kidding, Maggie. I don't mean legally innocent; I mean really innocent."


"Yeah," she said seriously. "It's one of a kind. We could use some ink."

Interval No. 1 with Dr. Mephisto

The night before we went to our first session with Jessie McQuist, MFT, PhD, and couples counselor to every other yuppie/buppie/guppie committed twosome in the East Bay, some miserable brew of guilt and dread gave me a killer case of insomnia. Beside me, Michael snored gently, deep in the untroubled sleep of not just the guiltless but also the noble and forgiving wronged spouse. At first he'd been furious, then cold and businesslike, and slowly he'd started to return to his normal, careless, affectionate self. But therapy! Yuck. That seemed likely to reignite the whole cycle of fire and ice. To distract myself, I focused on Dante's second circle of hell, the one that was home to those who lusted. At least it was a cool club that would welcome me—Cleopatra was there, and Helen of Troy, and Guinevere. Beauties, queens, and me, a weak, slightly bored, and hassled dilettante writer-editor-mom. The irony, I realized, was that it hadn't even been lust that had tempted me into the affair with my late boss. It was curiosity about someone who seemed so elegant and elusive. It was hero worship. It was a chance to see myself as something other than the mom on the Wednesday pickup for soccer practice. It was exciting to feel seductive, to make love in the middle of the afternoon, to have a secret. But of course it was also the secret that made me miserable. And the worst moment of my life rolled around, as I should have known it would, when Michael told me he knew. It was the morning after Quentin's death, and we were jockeying for mirror and sink space in our bathroom, as we did every morning. I sniffled something about what a wonderful, irreplaceable editor and friend Quentin had been. And then Michael shut me up. "Was he a wonderful lover, too?" he asked. We were both facing the mirror, Michael shaving, his eyes cold and flat. "What do you mean?" I stammered. And then he told me. He knew. He'd known for a long time. He knew it was over, and he didn't want to talk about it. Ever.


Excerpted from The Devil's Interval by Linda Lee Peterson. Copyright © 2013 Linda Lee Peterson. Excerpted by permission of Prospect Park Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Linda Lee Peterson is the author of Edited to Death, which introduced readers to the San Francisco sleuth and magazine editor Maggie Fiori. A frequent speaker on communication and marketing topics, Peterson has written several nonfiction books, including The Stanford Century, On Flowers (Chronicle), and Linens and Candles (Harper Collins) and is a contributor to national publications, including the Chicago Tribune. She is also one of the founding partners of Peterson Skolnick & Dodge, a marketing communications firm that serves business, arts and culture, environmental, higher education, and health care clients around the United States. A longtime San Franciscan and an alumna of Stanford University, Peterson now lives in Portland, Oregon.

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The Devil's Interval 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Readers who are also musicians and understand the relationship of intervals esp. the tritone and jazz improvisation, will gain a deeper enjoyment from reading this novel. We learn how the spaces separating people can be as hard to resolve as the intervals between notes. This mystery is well written with interesting characters, shows different, unique life styles of social strata, and has private clubs often with unusual rules.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a fan of this book. I couldn't like any of the characters, but I really disliked Maggie. The plot was easy to guess and inserting all the nonsense regarding her personal life just took up space.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lot of turns and flowed really well. Relatable characers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A pleasure to read a mystery by an intelligent erudite author
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nothing good about characters or plot. Waste of time, skipped through most of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its bad
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Characters well done
Anonymous More than 1 year ago